Disability in Society

To: Clarice Nelson, SLP



The cliché is “better late than never,” and clichés are generally born of almost universal truisms. I don’t exactly know what to say about the lack of response. Acquaintances in the Speech Pathology field tell me how busy they are, and I don’t doubt them for a second. Yet, I also sense a certain reticence to accept that someone outside the established AAC community could come up with a more useful solution. It’s some of the “not invented here” syndrome in play I think.

Having said that, I must add that the non-response appears to stem mainly from a lack of pressing demand for better AAC solutions reaching the SLPs. That may  be another product of what I have also had to contend with personally. Our society seems particularly ambivalent about disability and equality. We remind each other that equal opportunity for disabled people is the right thing to do, but we feel discomfort when we must deal with it on a personal level. Moreover,  the discomfort seems proportional to how evident someone’s disability is. Women often say that they select mates for non-physical characteristics like personality and a good sense of humor. Perhaps, but I think it’s more a situation of using those criteria in addition to the physical benchmarks rather than instead of. If you are unfortunate enough to have a disability that heavily affects what you can do, maintaining romantic relationships becomes quite problematic. The discomfort of being around the “severely disabled” appears to originate in virtually Darwinist instinct, creating the awkward ambivalence that’s part of our culture. The Iraq war may finally compel a re-examination of the role assigned to the disabled in our society, but I may not be able to hang on long enough to see it happen.

That ambivalence effectively prevents many disabled people from even attempting to enter society. If you cannot or do not make that attempt, you really don’t have any urgent need or yearning for better ways to communicate. I suppose that explains why the AAC  market has been largely stagnant  for 15 years.


From: Clarice Nelson
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 9:53 AM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: RE: E-Introduction Scott Meet Clarice

Hello, Scott
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I forwarded your information on to several of my colleagues. I take it no one has responded.
I am a graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I forwarded your information to my contact and former professor Jeri Sullivan. If you’d like you may contact her as well her address is …   Lamar runs a private clinic which accepts various patient in Beaumont and it surrounding towns…I was positive they might be able to use you will the returning soldiers from Iraq and the numerous increase in brain injury patients now.
Also I am a member of an organization here in Houston called the Houston Association of Communication Disorders…each month we have a meeting discussing new ideas and techniques in the field of Speech Pathology and Audiology…the contact who set up all our meeting is Kenyetta Boiling her contact information is … This organization is made up of many women with small successful private practices….
Unfortunately, as I told Dan when we spoke my students would not be able to use your device because of their significantly low cognitive functioning. Most of their IQ’s are 40 and below. I work at a facility that educates students with severe and profound mental retardation and autism.
It’s tough but very rewarding,
Please contact me if you need any additional information…

From: royall@conchbbs.com
To: djsloan25a26@yahoo.com; claricen@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: E-Introduction Scott Meet Clarice
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2006 15:42:41 -0600

Dan, thanks for the introduction. Now, we find out how interested Clarice is.

Clarice, I am pleased to “meet” you. It’s too bad the SLPs I’ve met or talked to are too harried by their daily routines to show much interest in new ideas. There’s also the complication that SLPs aren’t taught anything in technical fields such computer programming so they have no idea of what is actually possible. They have no way to know, for example, that the very design of Windows makes properly written programs quite modular. That means it isn’t difficult to string multiple programs together like train cars. SLPs look at Xpress-It and agree that it works well for me, but that other potential users might not be able to type well enough to use the program. SLPs have a lot of difficulty understanding that Xpress-It is totally apathetic about how it receives its input. Thus, Xpress-It can easily be combined with other specialized input software or hardware.

The most frustrating part of my experience is trying to educate people on just how critical speech quality is to functioning in society. The current performance standard is the high-dollar Dynavox product line. Ironically, I recently attended a conference hosted by Dynavox, and I was both pleased and saddened to hear Xpress-It kick the very best Dynavox has to offer up and down the street. A Dynavox sales VP was obviously unhappy about that as well. Clearly, what I developed is quite powerful and significant, if only the AAC-purchasing establishment would notice.

I also run a blog at http://adayinthelifeofaperson.spaces.live.com/.

From: DJSloan [mailto:djsloan25a26@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 2:08 PM
To: Scott Royall; Ms Clarice Nelson MS CCC SLP
Subject: E-Introduction Scott Meet Clarice

Ms. Nelson, may I present Mr. D. Scott Royall
Scott, please allow me to present Ms. Clarice Nelson
Scott, I met Ms. Nelson, MS CCC/SLP of CAN Communicate Therapeutic Services, a Speech Language Pathologist currently practicing as an independent consultant for speech/language therapy with Houston Independent School District [tel.(713)408-3680, fax.(713)738-6953, claricen@hotmail.com] this past Saturday.  I briefed her on my experience with you and the software you’ve built, about which she was curious.
Clarice, more precisely than I said Saturday, I met Scott in late 1990 or early 1991 when I joined the Engineering and Scientific Programming Department at Shell Oil, where he worked as a Senior Software Developer.  Scott is a graduate of the University of Houston with a BS in Computer Science.  On his web-site at http://www.conchbbs.com/who_am_i.htm , Scott explains, "I’m physically disabled with Cerebral Palsy. I use a customized electric wheelchair to get around, but am unable to talk. That’s what prompted me to develop Xpress-It!. With Xpress-It!, a standard laptop computer, an automotive-type audio amplifier and speakers (all powered by my wheelchair), I can talk to anyone."  In his resume (online at http://www.conchbbs.com/Docs/Final_Presentation_Resume.rtf), Scott explains that Express-It! is a real-time text-to-speech system with adaptive word prediction, based on VC++ and OBDC technology to enable persons with speech impairments to communicate clearly. Scott can be reached most easily by e-mail at royall@conchbbs.com
My hope knowing Scott for all these years and speaking with Ms. Nelson briefly is that the two of you can pick up this conversation in the interests of Ms. Nelson’s patients and Scott’s invention.
Best wishes,  DJSloan
Best Regards
DJSloan / Houston, Texas USA

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